A Philosopher's Blog

Zombie Birther

Posted in Politics, Reasoning/Logic by Michael LaBossiere on May 23, 2012
English: Anti-Barack Obama demonstrator at an ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ken Bennet, Arizona’s secretary of state, seems to have gone through a minor bout of birtherism recently. Fortunately, he seems to have recovered somewhat. Sadly this shows that the birther thing is a zombie of sorts-while it should be dead and buried, it just keeps lurching about and infecting people.

While folks who support Obama are obviously not fans of the birthers, the sensible folks on the right (of which there are many-they just don’t get much attention these days) are also not fans of this movement. Not surprisingly, I think it is far past the point at which the birther movement should have ended. I also contend that folks who oppose Obama should also be against the movement-if only for purely pragmatic reasons.

One rather important reason to be against the birther thing is that the core claim, that Obama was not born in the US, seems to have been disproven beyond all reasonable doubt via the appropriate legal documentation as well as by claims from reputable sources. As such, to believe in this claim is irrational and to push it seems to be morally suspect.

One pragmatic reason for anti-Obama folks to be against this birther thing is that it associates those who oppose Obama with a movement that taints the opposition with what seems to be craziness and absurdity. While guilt by association is a fallacy, it is generally best to avoid association with these sorts of movements. On the left, for example, it is generally best to steer clear of the 9/11 conspiracy theorists.

Another pragmatic reason for anti-Obama folks to be against the birther thing is that it is actually a distraction and a time waster. There is a wealth of issues on which the Republicans can legitimately criticize Obama (such as using drones to kill Americans apparently without due process and his ties to Wall Street). It makes far more sense to spend time on these issues without having to deal with the distraction of the birther thing.

Romney and other top tier Republicans should make it clear (in a polite way) that the birther thing needs to stop. This is not only the right thing to do, but also a smart thing for them.

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  1. dhammett said, on May 23, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Bennett says he wanted to “. . .’help as many Arizonians as I can by looking into their concerns over the document.”
    If that statement weren’t so astoundingly pathetic, it’d be funny.
    This just in:

    Just how many birthers are there in Arizona? Enough to put Bennett over the top?

    “It seems there’s not much you can count on these days. You can count on Ken Bennett.
    For 25 years, he has fought on behalf of conservative, traditional American values. From the Prescott City Council to the Arizona State Senate to his current post as Secretary of State, Ken Bennett has earned a reputation for common sense leadership and putting people first.”

    The huge birther population in Arizona should be happy.

    Four plus years, and non-birthers are still asking “Where’s the meat?” Even tofu would suffice.

    • dhammett said, on May 23, 2012 at 5:57 pm

      “Citizen but not patriot. ”

      Yes. Citizen. He’s a US citizen.

      You should enjoy this:

      The idea of “patriotism” and how it is to be expressed is constantly morphing. Look at the Pledge of Allegiance: ” Under God” wasn’t added until the early ’50s.
      “In 2004, linguist Geoffrey Nunberg criticized the addition of “under God” for a different reason. The original supporters of the addition thought that they were simply quoting Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. However, Nunberg said that to Lincoln and his contemporaries, “under God” meant “God willing” and they would have found its use in the Pledge of Allegiance grammatically incorrect.[22][23]
      “The introduction of “under God” in the 1950s was done during the Cold War, as a way to differentiate the U.S. from the concept of communist state atheism.[” Wikipedia, Pledge of Allegiance (this is an interesting article in many ways.

      And this article could provoke some thought. Ever heard of the Bellamy Salute?

      The rules in 36USC301 didn’t exist until Herbert Hoover. . .

      This snopes.com article gives some more coverage.

      Do you believe that when you go to the ballpark or the stadium that each member of the crowd who doesn’t have his hand over his heart is a patriot? Or that each crowd member who does have his hand over his heart is a patriot? Do you believe that those who don’t are all Democrats?
      It’s noble to show patriotism and love of one’s god in symbolic ways. But a flag lapel pin or a hand over a heart, or the words “under God” are not patriotism or proof of patriotism. They’re symbols.

      REAL patriotism , it would seem to me, is working for the good of the American people (all those things described in the first paragraph of the Preamble) . By that measure, according to wildly varying opinions, no one in the Senate, House, or SCOTUS or POTUS is patriotic. If that’s true, what does that say about the system. . . and every US citizen?

      • magus71 said, on May 23, 2012 at 8:56 pm

        Was that the place for Obama to make a statement? He gave a different reason than you and his spokesperson did for not covering his heart.

        Lenin was a patriot, too.

        • dhammett said, on May 23, 2012 at 10:56 pm

          Initially, you wrote “Citizen but not patriot. ” To me,that statement sounded like “Yes, he was born an American citizen, but is he a patriot? ” Were you indicating that you don’t think Obama’s a patriot#–based on the anthem incident–and that therefore he is unqualified to lead,is in some way evil, or is “bad”?
          And if it’s bad ^not^ to be a patriot and “Lenin WAS a patriot” does that in any way mean that Lenin was “good”? It’s symbolism, so it’s slippery. If covering one’s heart for the pledge is a sign of patriotism, and the Bellamy salute was a sign of patriotism at one time in this country, then Hitler was a patriot. The gap between the more-or-less negative readings of the term “patriot” in your 4:26 reply and your 8:56 is very small.
          In the end, however, whether Obama had his hand over his heart or not is of little or no consequence in the general scheme of things. Just another distraction that’s been around since the last election.

          “Was that the place for Obama to make a statement?” Did someone say he was making a statement?
          “He gave a different reason than you. . .” First, I provided many possible views through the links and quotation and suggestions I provided. Second, he’s got the right to give a different reason than I and I have the right to give a different reason than he. I’m not his spokesperson. Third, I wasn’t defending Obama so much as attacking what appeared to be your use of the very subjective and forever changing world of the ^symbols^ of patriotism as part of a not-so-covert attack on Obama’s “Americanness”. *#

          # else why ask the question in the first place—
          *# which is, not surprisingly, similar to the birthers’ attacks on his citizenship

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 24, 2012 at 11:34 am

      True, because patriotism is completely defined by how one stands during the national anthem-or at least how one is standing when a photo is taken.

      • magus71 said, on May 24, 2012 at 3:07 pm

        The Free Dictionary: “Patriot”

        “a person who vigorously supports his country and its way of life”

        If only you’d been so forgiving of Bush, Mike.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 24, 2012 at 6:32 pm

          I forgave Bush a great deal. In fact, I’d say that in many ways, he played way above his level. He also deserves credit for his positive initiatives in Africa and his commitment to democracy.

          • dhammett said, on May 24, 2012 at 7:27 pm

            For a while there he was a what they call a “compassionate conservative”. . .

          • dhammett said, on May 24, 2012 at 11:14 pm

            That phrase, “compassionate conservatism” raises its lovely head in a thoughtful article by EJ Dionne.Quote:

            Bush’s unpopularity at the end of his term encouraged conservatives, including the fledgling tea party movement, to distance themselves from his legacy. They declared that Bush’s shortcomings stemmed from his embrace of “big government” and “big spending” — even if much of the spending was in Iraq and Afghanistan. They recoiled from his “compassionate conservatism,” deciding, as right-wing columnist Michelle Malkin put it, that “ ‘compassionate conservatism’ and fiscal conservatism were never compatible.”


            I would argue that he abandoned compassionate conservatism after it had served his political purposes. Probably before conservatives abandoned him.

  2. henry said, on May 23, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Hi, I arrived here via your #62 podcast at gnostic media. Really shocked at your poor argument against birthers, have you even read the literature on this topic? You then proceed to commit an obvious fallacy when you remark on the idea that there are more pressing priorities. I know you are a Philosophy prof, so who’s ghost writing your blog? Seriously!

    • dhammett said, on May 23, 2012 at 5:59 pm

      What reading have you done on this topic that has convinced you that “there [aren’t] more pressing priorities?”

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 24, 2012 at 11:42 am

      I’ve argued against birthers elsewhere in more detail-in this post I was mainly just venting a bit in regards to the fact that this birther thing just keeps on dragging along like some sort of conceptual zombie. While I do believe that views should be given due consideration, this consideration should be proportional to the merit of the position. In the case of birthers, they are making a claim that runs contrary to all the available evidence. As such, it has about as much merit as the claim that Bush secretly plotted 9/11 or that NASA faked the moon landings. Sure, it is possible that these all could be true claims (none of them express or contain contradictions) but they are so clearly unsupported that they are hardly worthy of attention.

      As you’ll note, I do not say that it is false because there are more pressing priorities. Rather, I make the point that from a purely pragmatic standpoint it would be more reasonable to focus on issues that actually matter (like the economy). To use an analogy, if someone is fixated on keeping the werewolves from eating the tomatoes in the garden and I say “since there is no evidence that there are werewolves in Tallahassee who are after the tomatoes it would be more reasonable to focus on the bugs eating them right now” I have not committed a fallacy.

  3. T. J. Babson said, on May 23, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    I don’t think there is much doubt that Obama was born in Hawaii, but there is also not much doubt that Obama was willing to lie about his birthplace when it was to his advantage.

    I suspect that Obama lied about his birthplace somewhere in his college transcript, which benefited him somehow, perhaps in the form of a scholarship. This is why his transcripts will never see the light of day.

    Let’s face it: we know more about Ann Romney’s horse than we do of Obama’s life between the ages of 15 and 25.

    • dhammett said, on May 23, 2012 at 9:18 pm

      It’s good to see people distancing themselves from the birthers. Conspiracy theorists generally have a weak record of proving their cases.

      Back on 5/17 10:31pm (Sins of the Past) you wrote that “Obama is staggeringly dishonest..his WHOLE LIFE STORY IS FICTION.” Now you write “I don’t think there is much doubt that Obama was born in Hawaii,. . .” So, you’re sayin that part of his life story is probably true. It’s not fiction. . .
      If hIs whole life story includes his birth, which, I would assume, it does, and If his WHOLE life story IS fiction, how could there be ANY doubt whatsoever that his Hawaiian birth is fiction? If it IS fiction, why have you come to the apparently contradictory conclusion that there’s little doubt about his Hawaiian birth?

      How do you explain the gap between the clause “whole life story is fiction” and the clause “I don’t think there is much doubt Obama was born in Hawaii”?

      • T. J. Babson said, on May 23, 2012 at 10:37 pm

        I was indulging in a bit of hyperbole, dhammett. We do know, for example, what Obama has been doing since 2008.

        • dhammett said, on May 23, 2012 at 11:50 pm


          I think you’re overindulging in your “bit of hyperbole”.

          “. . .his WHOLE LIFE STORY IS FICTION.” First, you say ^everything^ is fiction. Then you say you “don’t think there is much doubt that Obama was born in Hawaii” . Apparently in the world of your ‘hyperbole’ we’ll accept as truth only those things that have not yet been proved untrue. Conveniently that leaves a lot of room in the future for numerous distractions from important national and international issues,.(NOTE: No hyperbole intended with the following)Distractions such as malicious accusations, wasted time and money searching for meaningless information, and just plain silliness. EX: If we can’t prove TJ wet his bed until age 5, we’ll keep that question in the spotlight until definitive proof (sheets with your urine stains retrieved from an old trunk in your grandma’s attic–thank God for DNA testing)

          Is what you know about Obama’s 2008 to 2012 years fiction.? Here are a few questions for you: Is that the Republicans’ fiction? The Democrats’ fiction? TJ’s fiction? Or the birthers’ fiction? How do you know which is which?

          Why indulge in your little bit of hyperbole at all?

          • T. J. Babson said, on May 24, 2012 at 8:05 am

            “I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.”

            BHO in “The Audacity of Hope.”

            psst…dhammett: he isn’t literally a blank screen, but is using a figure of speech.

            • dhammett said, on May 24, 2012 at 8:45 am

              Is Mitt Romney ‘literally’ the Etch-A-Sketch candidate as was alleged by his Republican opponents during the primary? No. But figuratively he fits the bill. I should point out that at this point, one thing we know is that he has yet to recover a memory of the hair cutting episode. That would make him “literally a blank screen” on that subject, no?

              Overall, I think it’s best to stick with the facts and hold back on the foolishness, allegations, wild assumptions, and malicious attacks until there’s a fact or two to support them.
              Remember, TJ, that under the birther system, you, were a bed wetter until age 5— unless you can provide evidence to prove otherwise. Guilty until proven innocent. The American way. . .

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 24, 2012 at 11:47 am

      Aside from the one bio piece that was most likely written by someone else, what evidence is there that Obama has been lying about his birthplace?

      I’m not sure which schools list a person’s place of birth on the transcripts. Mine list my classes, grades and so on. But I don’t recall ever seeing my citizenship or birthplace on them.

      I didn’t know Ann Romney had a horse.

      What’s the big mystery about Obama from 15-25? Do you, for example, have detailed data on my life from 15-25?

  4. ajmacdonaldjr said, on May 24, 2012 at 5:46 am

    The recently discovered bio from Obama’s literary agent says he was born in Kenya, and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii, which is the truth. The US Constitution requires the president be native born, which neither Obama or McCain were, making the last election a mute point. This is an important qualification that Obama seems to be lacking. People who are born and raised here think differently about America than do people who are naturalized citizens. Conspiracy theories, by definition, are unprovable, which are not the same as the arguments the “birthers” and the “truthers” are putting forth, because they are dealing with evidence and not unprovable theory. In your quest to be rational and reasonable you are becoming an apologist for the corrupted political system.

    • dhammett said, on May 24, 2012 at 8:30 am

      “. . . he was born in Kenya, and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii, which is the truth.”
      And you know this how?

      You may want to read the statement by the writer of that statement:

      Miriam Goderich issued the following statement to Political Wire:
      “You’re undoubtedly aware of the brouhaha stirred up by Breitbart about the erroneous statement in a client list Acton & Dystel published in 1991 (for circulation within the publishing industry only) that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. This was nothing more than a fact checking error by me — an agency assistant at the time. There was never any information given to us by Obama in any of his correspondence or other communications suggesting in any way that he was born in Kenya and not Hawaii. I hope you can communicate to your readers that this was a simple mistake and nothing more.”

      • ajmacdonaldjr said, on May 24, 2012 at 9:25 pm

        To many questions. What sort of literary agent gets a simple author bio THAT wrong? No one. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okKud3SHUjY

        • dhammett said, on May 24, 2012 at 10:21 pm

          What sort? Incompetent perhaps. Incompetence does occur in the private sector. . .

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on May 25, 2012 at 10:03 am

          Having been in the publishing and academic fields a while, I’ve seen and heard of many errors in texts. While it is possible that Obama acted to deceive, the evidence is stronger for it being what the person who wrote it claimed-a typo. Now, if there is a paper trail of deceit through the years (multiple documents over the span of time from then to now), then this would show that Obama was up to something.

          • ajmacdonaldjr said, on May 25, 2012 at 5:43 pm

            I don’t think Obama was up to anything. The publisher (lit agent) was simply telling the truth as Barack Obama told it: born in Kenya. That kind of error, in a brief biography, is no typo, and I think you know that. He just figured he would bluster his way through with a made-up Hawaiian “birth certificate”. McCain was no better, in 2008, because he is not native-born either. he was born in the Canal Zone in Panama. You must admit the author bio is good, hard evidence of Obama’s life history.

  5. […] Zombie Birther (aphilosopher.wordpress.com) […]

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